Is That What You’re Wearing? Or, Books Have A Bigger Budget

Friday, April 27th, 2018 | Posted by Violette Malan

Robin HoodOne of the most common topics of conversation among those who both read books and watch movies is the difference between the one and the other. Often it’s specific things like “that’s not how I pictured the protagonist” or, “where’d my favourite character go?” Sometimes it’s more general stuff like which medium did the overall job better.

That kind of argument can go on all night, but one thing is not in doubt: No matter how much money is spent on a movie or TV show, books have a bigger budget. Look at the big picture:  In a book you can have your characters go anywhere you’d like, live wherever you’d like, and use whatever transportation you’d like and it doesn’t cost you a dime. You don’t have to have the budget to reproduce your ideas on the screen.

And this just as true for every aspect of the smaller picture, though just now I’m going to talk about what your characters are wearing. No outfit is too extravagant, too simple, too colourful or too plain for your reader’s imagination. Your characters can even wear clothing that it is virtually impossible to eat, walk, or sit down in – as some cosplayers have discovered for themselves.

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Birthday Reviews: Frank Belknap Long’s “Willie”

Friday, April 27th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by William Timmins

Cover by William Timmins

Frank Belknap Long was born on April 27, 1901 and died on January 3, 1994.

In 1976, Long was nominated for three World Fantasy Award for his study Howard Phillips Lovecraft: Dreamer on the Nightside, his collection The Early Long, and received his second Lifetime Achievement nomination. He would eventually receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Award in 1978 and form the Bram Stoker Awards in 1988. In 1977, he was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame.

“Willie” first appeared in the October 1943 issue of Astounding Science-Fiction, edited by John W. Campbell, Jr. It was reprinted in 1979 in Night Fear, a collection of stories by Long. In 1999, August Derleth included it as an example of a time travel story in New Horizons: Yesterday’s Portraits of Tomorrow. It was also reprinted in 2010 in the Centipede Press volume Frank Belknap Long, part of its Masters of the Weird Tale series.

Although the story is called “Willie,” the central character begins by thinking of himself as simply “Twenty-ninth Century Man.” He eventually learns that he is known as Agar, although he also has the identity of Monitor 236, a position of responsibility and dignity. Despite all of these identities, he is never quite clear who he is or how he fits into the primitive society in which he finds himself in. He does know that it is his responsibility to protect the people of the city.

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Goth Chick News: Enjoy This… Whatever the Hell It Is

Thursday, April 26th, 2018 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Anthony Hopkins Westworld-small

With season two of HBO’s Westworld premiering this week It’s difficult not to consider the magnitude of Sir Anthony Hopkins’s body of work. I mean, after all, before his latest stint as Robert Ford making all our violent dreams come true, he portrayed iconic characters from Captain Bligh, and Don Diego to Richard Nixon. But it was his portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter and that line, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti,” followed by sucking air through his teeth that not only permanently burned Hopkins into my psyche but gave me nightmares for weeks. I mean, that’s the scariest and most disturbing he’s ever been.

Right?

Wrong.

This week the 80-year-old Hopkins decided to treat the Twitter-verse to his most horrifying performance to date. For reasons unknown Hopkins posted the short video below with the caption:

“This is what happens when you’re all work and no play…”

which may or may not have been some sort of Shining reference. However, Jack Torrance would have been under this desk in a fetal position had he seen what you’re about to see. And before you think you’re watching a filter at work, you aren’t. This isn’t Instagram it’s Twitter, and that’s Hopkins’ face doing that.

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A Spooky Trip Back to the Golden Age of Weird: The Complete Tales of Jules de Grandin, by Seabury Quinn

Thursday, April 26th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Horror on the Links The Complete Tales of Jules de Grandin Volume One-small The Devil's Rosary The Complete Tales of Jules de Grandin Volume Two-small The Dark Angel The Complete Tales of Jules de Grandin Volume Three-small

Seabury Quinn’s occult detective Jules de Grandin first appeared in Weird Tales in 1925 and, in over 90 stories published over the next 26 years, he squared off against ghosts, werewolves, satanists, serial killers, and more sinister things. His adventures were among the most popular ever published in that venerable old pulp, surpassing even the legendary exploits of Robert E. Howard’s Conan and H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

Publishers’s Weekly had this to say about the first installment of The Complete Tales of Jules de Grandin, The Horror on the Links, released by Night Shade Books in April 2017:

The first volume… is a fun, spooky trip back to the golden age of weird. Each story is narrated by de Grandin’s bemused and long-suffering friend Dr. Samuel Trowbridge, and most include de Grandin’s concluding explanation of the how and why of the events. Each story has its merits, but standouts include the shudder-worthy “The Isle of Missing Ships,” in which de Grandin and Trowbridge’s ship is overtaken by pirates; they end up stranded on an island where a strange man dwells in a lavish underwater cave and “long pork” is on the menu. “The Great God Pan” sees de Grandin and Trowbridge among a bevy of beauties in thrall to a strange guru. In other stories, the duo face werewolves, disembodied hands, and an evil scientist who keeps horrifying “pets” in his cellar. Seabury had a keen imagination and gift for atmosphere, and, even though modern readers may flinch a bit at some of the dated viewpoints and tropes, they’re likely to still have a grand time.

In the Jules de Grandin entry of The Nightmare Men, his long-running Black Gate series on occult detectives, Josh Reynolds offered his own thoughtful assessment of this great pulp hero. Here it is.

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Aliens, the Apocalypse, and the CIA: Tribulation 99

Thursday, April 26th, 2018 | Posted by Thomas Parker

Tribulation 99-small

One of the best things about being a part of the Black Gate community is being able to share things here that I could never bring up in everyday conversation with any of the fine, upstanding, ordinary folks that I spend most of my time with. They just wouldn’t understand — but I know that you will.

For instance, if the topic should turn to films, and should further narrow to the strange, the odd, the offbeat, most people might bring up that bizarre movie where Samuel Jackson never once said the word… well, you know, or the one where Ben Kingsley briefly pretended that he wasn’t there just for the paycheck, or that really nutty one where Adam Sandler spent thirty consecutive seconds actually trying to act.

Whatever gets mentioned, though, I know with moral certainty that no one will bring up Tribulation 99, a 1992 film written and directed by underground filmmaker Craig Baldwin. This is probably because not one person in a million has even heard of it. But in a lifetime spent watching really weird movies, it is without a doubt one of the weirdest things I have ever seen. So… do you want to hear about it? Of course you do. That’s why you’re here.

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Birthday Reviews: A.E. Van Vogt’s “War of Nerves”

Thursday, April 26th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Malcolm Smith

Cover by Malcolm Smith

A.E. (Alfred Elton) van Vogt was born on April 26, 1912 and died on January 26, 2000.

Van Vogt began publishing science fiction with “The Black Destroyer,” the first of four stories which became his novel The Voyage of the Space Beagle. His other major works include Slan, The Weapon Shops of Isher, and The World of ­Ā.

In 1966 his story “Research Alpha,” co-written with James Schmitz, was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novella. In 1996 his “The Mixed Men” and The World of ­Ā were both nominated for Retro Hugo Awards. That same year he received a Worldcon Special Convention Award for his six decades in science fiction. He finally won a Retro Hugo in 2017 for the novel Slan. His The Weapon Shops of Isher received a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 2005. He received a Forry Award in 1972 and an Aurora Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1980. In 1996, he was named an SFWA Grand Master and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

“War of Nerves was incorporated into van Vogt’s fix-up novel, The Voyage of the Space Beagle, the last of the four stories published (although set after the first story in the novel). It originally appeared in Other Worlds magazine in the May 1950 issue, edited by Raymond Palmer, the only one of the four not to appear in Astounding. The original story has been reprinted in van Vogt’s collections Monsters, The Best of A.E. van Vogt, and Transfinite: The Essential A.E. van Vogt. Monsters has also been published under the title The Blal. The story has been translated into French and twice into Italian.

“War of the Nerves” describes a telepathic attack on the Space Beagle by a previously unknown race, the Riim. The attack, which comes out of nowhere, results in the crew becoming either incapacitated or allowing their pent up emotions free. The scientists on board take sides in a civil war between factions and the military men begin looking for an excuse to let their hostility towards the scientists loose.

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Exploring Zaprice Castle, Slovenia

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

Zaprice_castle_east

Zaprice Castle from the east. Image courtesy Vojko Kalan.

As a lover of all things medieval, whenever I’m traveling I always sniff out any local castles. Whether it’s a famous castle in England or a crumbling, little-known ruin in the Netherlands, I’m always glad to visit.

Thus I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Slovenia a few years ago. This compact little country is affordable, easy to travel around in, and has a lovely stretch of the Alps. More importantly, it has heaps of historic buildings, including an estimated 700 castles.

Zaprice Castle is one of Slovenia’s most famous and most visited. It’s located in Kamnik, a small town at the foot of the Alps just 45 minutes from the capital Ljubljana. The castle stands on a hill at the edge of town, making it a clear landmark.

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New Treasures: The Long Sunset by Jack McDevitt

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Long Sunset Jack McDevitt-smallJack McDevitt’s Academy series began with The Engines of God in 1994. The series has garnered four Nebula nominations (for Chindi, Omega, Odyssey, and Cauldron) and one Campbell Memorial Award win (for Omega). It has become one of the most popular and acclaimed science fiction series on the market (see the complete list of books in the series in my previous post here).

In the eighth and latest installment, The Long Sunset, Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins discovers an interstellar message from a highly advanced race that could be her last chance for a mission before the program is shut down for good. Jeff Somers at The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog calls it “Classic space adventure in the best sense of the term… McDevitt’s optimism and enthusiasm for the profound mysteries of the universe shines through, lending the increasingly fascinating investigation an air of excitement as the crew sifts through dead planets…”

It arrived in hardcover from Saga Press last week. Here’s the description.

Hutch has been the Academy’s best pilot for decades. She’s had numerous first contact encounters and even became a minor celebrity. But world politics have shifted from exploration to a growing fear that the program will run into an extraterrestrial race more advanced than humanity and war.

Despite taking part in the recent scientific breakthrough that rejuvenates the human body and expands one’s lifespan, Hutch finds herself as a famous interstellar pilot with little to do, until a message from an alien race arrives.

The message is a piece of music from an unexplored area. Despite the fact that this alien race could pose a great danger and that this message could have taken several thousand years to travel, the program prepares the last interstellar ship for the journey. As the paranoia grows, Hutch and her crew make an early escape — but what they find at the other end of the galaxy is completely unexpected.

The Long Sunset was published by Saga Press on April 17, 2018. It is 451 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $7.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by John Harris.


Birthday Reviews: Fletcher Pratt’s “Hormones”

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Richard Powers

Cover by Richard Powers

Fletcher Pratt was born on April 25, 1897 and died on June 11, 1956.

Pratt was nominated for an International Fantasy Award in 1952 for his nonfiction book Rockets, Jets, Guided Missiles and Space Ships co-written with Jack Coggins. In 2016, Pratt was nominated for two Retro Hugo Awards for the novellas “The Roaring Trumpet” and “The Mathematics of Magic,” both co-written with L. Sprague de Camp and part of their Harold Shea series.

“Hormones” was published in the second volume of Frederik Pohl’s Star Science Fiction series in 1953. Although that book has been issued in multiple editions, the story has never appeared elsewhere.

Reading science fiction published over the span of the twentieth century, much of it can be seen to be representative of its time, culturally, technologically, and literarily. In “Hormones,” Pratt attempts to update the disappearing shop story and the love potion story, with limited success. His shop doesn’t actually disappear, but the individual Herbert Schofield needs to deal with does vanish before Schofield can return.

Schofield’s character is stuck in a lower position at work than he would like, which not only impacts his career, but also his chances of marrying the girl he is dating. When a clerk at an all-night pharmacy offers him hormonal potions that can resolve both of his issues, he jumps at the chance. Pratt’s decision to update the magic potion with a veneer of chemistry is a nice change of pace.

Naturally, things don’t turn out the way Schofield expected and while the use of a love potion can be seen as akin to a date rape drug, Schofield has the tables turned on him. “Hormones” is an example of a story which was very much of its time, but doesn’t stand up well to the changing societal mores, which make it more creepy than was intended by the author or tone.

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Vintage Treasures: The Best Science Fiction 1974, edited by Lester del Rey, Terry Carr, and Donald Wollheim

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year 4-medium The-Best-Science-Fiction-of-the-Year-4-Terry-Carr-medium2 The 1975 Annual World's Best SF-medium

In his Foreword to his Fourth Annual Collection of Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year, which gathered stories published in 1974, Lester del Rey makes the case for Sense of Wonder as the core literary virtue of science fiction.

There is another element that must be present in every good science fiction story. It should excite a feeling of wonder, of something beyond the ordinary. It is the expectation of finding such wonders that makes the reader turn to science fiction rather than to more conventional tales of adventure.

There was a time, forty or fifty years ago, when what was then called “scientifiction” had little more than this sense of wonder to recommend it. Most of the writing was dreadful, the characters were little more than stick figures, and the plots were creakingly devoted to nothing but gadgetry. Yet, bad as they were, these stories opened the imagination to wonderful vistas of the future, of the triumph of mankind beyond normal limits, and to all things strange and alien.

Today, the situation has changed. The newer writers — and the older ones who have survived in the field — have learned their craft well. The writing is incredibly better. Gone are the horible cliches of the worst of pulp fiction: the trite mad scientists, and the banal heroines who are mere props for the hero to save from a fate worse than death. Gone are the spate of pseudo-science words and the plethora of meaningless adjectives.

Happily, in the best of science fiction the sense of wonder is still with us.

We need that feeling of wonder today, perhaps more than ever, when mainstream literature and our daily newspapers keep telling us that — in the words of Wordsworth — “The world is too much with us; late and soon;/Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers…” We need to be reminded that the future is still unexplored territory and that we can read to the end of the sonnet and “Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;/Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.”

I don’t often get to mix Wordsworth with my science fiction; allow me to celebrate a little when it happens organically.

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